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Drivers Must Be Careful by School Buses

Now that the school year is in full swing and most of us have returned to our routines, it is time for me to remind residents to be extra careful when driving through town. It is important for us to all recognize and stop for each school bus that has its red signal lights flashing. It is a warning that students are entering or exiting the bus and they may be in the area. Pedestrians are not always visible, especially when a vehicle as large as a bus is stopped and a student is walking or running toward it or away from it.

The Route 7 widening project has been completed for less than a year. I remind motorists that you must always stop for a school bus with flashing red signal lights regardless of the direction you are traveling. Traveling in the opposite direction, even when traveling on the other side of the road, does not permit drivers to pass a stopped school bus displaying flashing red signal lights. It is against the law, and officers will issue violators a mandatory state fine of $460.

The Wilton Police Department recognizes the seriousness of passing a stopped school bus and designates officers to patrol at some of the bus stops along Route 7, where cars are traveling faster than in other areas of town. I also encourage residents to report violators who pass stopped school buses to the police department no matter where the violation occurs.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency, school buses are nearly eight times safer than passenger vehicles. However, each year 19 school-age children are killed getting on or off buses. The majority of the children killed are 5 to 7 years old who are struck while in what is referred to as the "danger zone" of a bus, the area surrounding the bus itself. Parents should make sure their children get to the bus on time and wait far away from the road. Instruct your children to ask the bus driver for help if they drop anything near the bus before they attempt to reach for it. When a child bends down to retrieve something, it makes it hard for the bus driver to see them. Make sure that your children's clothing and backpacks have no loose straps or drawstrings that may get caught on a handrail or door.

Remember that the laws prohibiting passing a stopped school bus are here to protect the children and to prevent a tragedy from occurring.

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